Hard Catch Limits in the Northeast Multispecies Fishery: Balancing Accountability and Opportunity in a Multispecies Complex
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The New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) manages New England’s northeast multispecies fishery with effort controls including gear restrictions, seasonal and permanent closures, trip and daily possession limits, and days-at-sea (DAS). The fishery operates on a soft or “target” total allowable catch (TAC) rather than a hard catch limit. Target TACs lack a closure provision, and do not require overages to be deducted from the following year’s recommended TAC. New England routinely exceeds target catch levels for multiple stocks, threatening rebuilding objectives and leading to more restrictive effort controls. Hard catch limits would provide greater control over total fishing mortality, ensuring that managers and fishermen are held accountable to objectives of the multispecies management plan and that rebuilding plans are successful. They would also eliminate the economic inefficiencies generated by input controls and provide fishermen with greater economic opportunities during the rebuilding process. Seven sub-programs within the northeast multispecies fishery are currently managed under hard catch limits including the Georges Bank hook and fixed gear sectors, the U.S./Canada Resource Sharing Understanding, the Category B (regular) DAS program, and three Special Access Programs. An analysis of these seven case studies is used to generate recommendations to guide the implementation of hard catch limits across the entire multispecies fishery.
DepartmentNicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
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